Before you decided to get married you did a lot of thinking. As such, it stands to reason that before filing for divorce you need to do the same. The reality is getting into marriage is a lot less complicated than getting out of it is. However, research, self evaluation and proper preparation can make it a lot easier. Sure this process is hard, but presumably you made a decision to divorce in the first place because you didn’t believe there was any other way forward for your future. Therefore, you should hold onto the notion that there are blue skies on the other side of this storm, and the only way to get to them is through the clouds and rain, one soggy step at a time. If you stand still all you are going to do is get more soaking wet.
Your support system during this time is crucial. They cannot walk the walk for you, but they can do it with you as your umbrella, giving you some coverage along the way. This is no time to be tentative. You must be proactive, taking decisive action that best serves your interests. If you don’t who will? The hardest thing you have to do is take the emotion out of your preparation for filing for divorce. There is a place for that, first and foremost in your therapists office. However, in the legal world of your divorce proceedings, you need to be clear, decisive and rational. If you are all three of those things even before filing for divorce you will be more likely to maintain that composure all the way through it.
10 Things To Do Before Filing For Divorce 1 of 11
Know Your Rights 2 of 11
Collect Financial Records 3 of 11
Marriage is like a business with finances, debts, assets, and more. You can't divide a business without knowing who it owes and what it is worth. Do a financial autopsy. Research the business that is your marriage. Gather account statements, returns, pay stubs, all of the documents that will paint the financial picture of your business for your lawyer. Make copies of all relevant financial documents to add to your divorce file. I recommend scanning them to create a digital file so you can reference the documents readily.
Division Of Property 4 of 11
The business of your marriage exists not just on paper but in the things that you have jointly accumulated during your time together. Make a comprehensive list of your assets that will need to be divided in the divorce agreement. Consider taking pictures of the items, much like you would do for an insurance policy. Then classify the items "must have," "don't want," and "willing to bargain," so your lawyer will know where your head is at.
Consider The Future 5 of 11
Envision your life post-divorce. Chances are you you didn't dream of divorce like you dreamed of getting married. You need to give your post divorce some serious thought. Will you want to move, change careers, start a business? Give yourself sometime to work it through. Perhaps you can talk it out with a trusted advisor or friend. At the very least consider journaling about it. Your vision of life post-divorce will serve as the foundation for your Marriage Separation Agreement.
Draft a Post Divorce Budget 6 of 11
Draft an after divorce budget. Once you have a vision you need to have a better understanding of what it will take to fund life as you imagine it. My good friends at ChicagonistaLive have a series going on right now with Atrium Wealth Advisors called GPS To Your Wealth. They have actual worksheets on their website that you can download for free to get you started.
Establish Personal Credit 7 of 11
If you don't already have a bank account and credit card solely in your name it is time to get one. If you have a joint account it would be helpful if you could separate it before you file for divorce, but if that is not possible at least you will have your individual account through which you can begin to do most of your business. If you have direct deposits, transfer them to your personal account. Take charge of your finances and your credit. That's what your future will require.
Draft a Divorce Aggreement 8 of 11
The more information you can give your lawyer the better, including a rough draft of a divorce agreement. If you Google "divorce agreement templates," you will find a wealth of options ready to guide you. You can also find many books in the bookstore to instruct you as well.
Custody and Visitation 9 of 11
If you have kids you are going to need to hash out a custody and visitation plan. This may be harder than you think. The more details you can include in your agreement the less confusion, and ultimately frustration, there will be in the future.
Divorce Lawyer 10 of 11
Now that you have done your homework, and you have a clear understanding of what your situation is presently and what you are hoping for int the future, it is time to find a good lawyer to champion your interests. You can start with Google, but this is an area where you really want some recommendations. Talk to friends and friends of friends. Learn as much as you can about the lawyers, their practices and their temperament. Run their names through the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission, ARDC, website to find out about their license and if there have been any complaints. Don't skimp on this investigation. Divorces can get very costly. You need to know who you are working with well enough that you can trust them with your future.
Protect Yourself 11 of 11
While married we share not just finances and items — we share personal information too, like passwords, wills, trusts and ICE (in case of emergency), status. It's time to change everything. Change your passwords. Change your will. Change your beneficiary. Change your emergency contacts. Lay the ground work for your new life even before you get to embark on it.
Keep our eye on the prize; the freedom to embark upon take two of your life.
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